Majoring in English

The English Major

We have found that students typically give several reasons for majoring in English. A common theme is a long and committed appreciation of reading and writing. Others wish to develop their writing skills because they plan to enter law school or other careers that demand a sophisticated ability to organize and synthesize concrete and abstract ideas.

Of course, many of our majors intend to pursue a career specifically in writing—that is, in some area of business or technical writing, editing and publishing, or creative writing. A number of our majors also seek careers in teaching. If their goal is to teach on the high school level, they will need to acquire the necessary certification after graduation; if they intend to teach on the college or university level, they must plan for extended graduate studies.

When to Declare the Major

Ideally, you should declare the major as soon as possible, so as to take advantage of departmental advising in planning the best sequence of upper-level courses. If you can complete the GER Composition Requirement in your freshman year and English 215 the following semester, you should plan to declare in the spring of your sophomore year. You need to have completed English 215 in order to declare the major.  The next step is to contact the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, preferably via email ( You should request an appointment. At that appointment, the Associate Chair will be able to answer your preliminary questions about the major. You, in turn, will be asked about your background, your current interests, and your long-range plans, so that you may be assigned a departmental advisor qualified to help you create a fulfilling major program appropriate to those interests and goals. The Department welcomes prospective majors who have maintained a minimum 2.5 GPA in their English courses during the freshman and sophomore years.


Once you have declared your major, you will have access to three different advisors: your L&S college advisor, who will help you with your overall degree requirements; the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies of the English department, who will answer any questions that come up regarding technical aspects of the major (e.g., which courses satisfy which requirements); and your major advisor, who will help you plan a coherent array of courses within the major and generally act as a mentor to you.

Selecting a major advisor will be easy for you if you have already encountered a faculty member whom you like and respect, and with whom you feel comfortable. If you have not yet met a professor that you would want as an advisor, you will have the opportunity to discuss with the Associate Chair your particular requirements and needs. For example, you will want to decide if gender is a factor for you, or age, or ethnicity, for it is important that you feel at ease with your advisor, able to discuss with him/her any problems that arise or particularities of your hopes and aspirations. The English Department is an extremely diverse group, so it is quite probable that an appropriate fit between you and a faculty member can be found.

You should plan to meet with your advisor once a semester, before registering for classes, to talk over your progress in the major and your plans for future classes. (If you should forget the name, phone number, or e-mail address of your advisor, simply contact the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies.)

A good sequence would be this:

  • first see what courses you need to fulfill specific requirements and which of those are being offered in the upcoming semester.
  • then, go to the online schedule and check what courses will be offered. The course descriptions listed on the English department web site should help you to refine your choices by telling you what texts will be covered, what the main issues of the course are likely to be, how many papers and exams will be expected of you, how grades will be determined, and so on.
  • next, talk over those choices with your major advisor to get his/her feedback.
  • remember to do all this early enough so as not to be closed out of any courses you may want or need.

Credit Requirements for Majors

Before declaring the major, all students are required to take English 215: Introduction to English Studies. This is a rigorous sophomore level course designed to introduce students to multiple forms of literary and nonliterary texts and discourses in English, combining an emphasis on close reading with study of English in its cultural, historical, and global frameworks. Since English 215 is intended to help prepare students for their upper-level English courses, all students are strongly encouraged to take it before registering for any higher courses. Information on specific course requirements for each track is available under “Tracks in the Major.”

Honors in the Major

English majors who have maintained at least a 3.50 GPA in courses for the major, a 3.50 GPA on all advanced (300-level and above) courses in the major, and a 3.00 overall GPA on all UWM graded credits attempted, qualify to graduate with “Honors in the Major.”